Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shared a first photo from his hospital bed in Berlin Tuesday, after Germany’s government said he was poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent in Russia last month.
In a first social media post since he was allegedly poisoned on Aug. 20, the Kremlin critic, looking gaunt but alert, posed with his wife, Yulia, and two children, who were wearing masks and hospital gowns.
“I still can’t do many things, but yesterday I could breathe by myself the whole day,” Navalny said in the post, which has been “liked” by more than 500,000 people. “I did not use any outside help, not even the simplest valve in my throat.”
“I liked it a lot,” the politician quipped, adding that he “misses everyone.”
The 44-year-old foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin fell ill on a flight from Tomsk, a Siberian city where he and his team were conducting a corruption investigation last month.
The plane had to make an emergency landing and the politician was taken to a local hospital, where doctors said he had to be put in an induced coma and on ventilator.
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His aides immediately said he was poisoned, but Russian doctors speculated that he may have suffered from a metabolic disease.
The politician was airlifted to Germany on request from his family after a long dispute with Russian officials over whether he was fit to fly.
Since then, the German government has said Navalny was poisoned by a nerve agent from the Novichok family, the same substance the British government said was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K. in 2018.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that the initial findings had now been independently corroborated by laboratories in France and Sweden.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called the findings “disturbing” and demanded that the Russian government explain the use of Novichok, mounting international pressure and further straining Russia’s already frail relationship with the west.
The Kremlin has said they have not seen the results of the German investigation, and insisted there is still no definitive proof that Navalny has been poisoned.
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Meanwhile, Russia’s ruling United Russia party suffered setbacks in votes for two Siberian city councils contested by supporters of Navalny despite securing landslide wins elsewhere at weekend regional elections.
Navalny had promoted a tactical voting strategy to challenge United Russia and disrupt a political system in which outspoken Kremlin critics are often barred from competing. His allies have pressed ahead with the strategy despite his illness.
The politician rose to prominence in 2009 with investigations into official corruption and became a protest leader when hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Russia in 2011 to protest electoral fraud.
A few years later, and after several short-term spells in jail, Navalny faced two separate sets of fraud charges, which were viewed as political retribution aimed at stopping him from running for office.
Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation has conducted in-depth investigations into the highest ranks of the Russian political elite, including his most famous investigation into former prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev.